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Marriott Overhauls Cobranded Cards, Last Chance to Grab SPG Amex

Jan. 23, 2019
11 min read
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Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express here before it closes applications forever on Feb. 12!

Once we learned that the Marriott program will go by the name of Bonvoy, we knew a rebranding of the cobranded credit cards was likely in store. And just like clockwork, today Amex and Chase are announcing updates to their respective lineups of SPG and Marriott cards. Grab a coffee as in typical post-Marriott merger fashion, there is lots to work through with these announcements.

The broad strokes are that all cards across both issuers are getting Bonvoy branding. Beyond that, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is closing to new applications in February, so now's your last chance to get that card, which will soon go by the moniker of the Marriott Bonvoy Amex. On the Chase side, the Marriott Premier Plus Business Credit Card will be shuttering applications in February, and a new no-fee Marriott Bonvoy card will launch this summer.

There are also some sleek new card designs for both lineups. Amex is ditching its "Starwood purple" for a more modern, muted look, while the Chase card is getting a less dramatic makeover. While the new branding is being announced today, you won't see it reflected on Amex and Marriott marketing until mid-February. If you're an existing card holder, you'll receive the updated cards starting in March.

Some small changes to the cards' benefits are in store — most notably a new $100 luxury credit for eligible stays at St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton properties available on the SPG Luxury Card (soon to be known as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant) and the ability to spend your way to a second free award night on both business cards. There will also be an annual fee increase to $125 on the SPG Business Amex, which is being rebranded as the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex. Finally, limited-time 100,000-point welcome bonuses will be available for the three cards that are remaining open to new applicants beyond February.

We'll jump into the details below, but here's a cheat sheet illustrating the changes for the Amex lineup of cards associated with the Marriott Bonvoy program:

Amex Bonvoy Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Amex

The entry-level ($95 a year; See Rates & Fees) SPG Amex will be rebranded as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card in mid-February, and at that time it will close to new applicants. After Feb. 12, your only Marriott-branded credit card options from Amex will be the $450 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant and the Marriott Bonvoy Business.

Though it will soon be shuttered to new applicants, the Marriott Bonvoy Amex will retain its existing perks for card holders who are approved before the Feb. 12 cutoff date. (So consider this your apply now or forever hold your peace warning.) The $95 annual fee is remaining, as is the 6x earning rate at Marriott hotels. The welcome bonus available through Feb. 12 is 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

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Amex is adding an extra incentive for those who opened the Marriott Bonvoy Amex (so effectively the SPG Amex) before Jan. 23: You can register to earn up to 100,000 bonus points — 25,000 points for every $25,000 you spend on the card, for up to 100,000 points through the end of the year. If you're willing and able to log that type of spend on your card, this effectively boosts the earning rate on non-bonus spending from 2x to 3x and on spending at Marriott resorts from 6x to 7x — but you'll have to spend at least $25,000 on the card in a year to earn 25,000 points. You can't just spend $11,000 and get 11,000 bonus points. Amex says it will be sending more info about how to register for that promotion to eligible card members soon.

Amex isn't letting its non-premium Marriott card go quietly. To drum up some excitement for the new Bonvoy branding across its portfolio — and presumably to inspire you to sign up for the Bonvoy Amex before it's no longer available — the issuer collaborated with mural and studio artist Tony "Rubin" Sjöman on a limited-edition card design, with an abstract, city-inspired motif. This design will be available starting in May, and existing card members will automatically receive the new design at that point.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex

The $450 per year SPG Luxury Amex will be redubbed the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex and will add a few new perks:

  • $100 luxury credit — Card holders can use this new credit toward dining, spa purchases and more at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties starting on March 28. You must book a stay of two nights or longer and use a special rate code to get the credit (so we're assuming it is not valid on award stays), and luckily it's uncapped so you can use it multiple times per year. Note that unlike with the $300 annual Marriott statement credit on this card, with this $100 luxury credit room rates are explicitly excluded. This $100 credit will be available on the Ritz-Carlton Card as well (that card has been closed to new applicants since July 2018).
  • New metal design — The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex joins the ranks of cards ditching plastic for a more premium material. Not only that, but we have to admit the new texturized black look is more grown-up (and luxe) than the SPG purple. The new design will be available starting in March.
  • 100k welcome bonus — Those who sign up between Feb. 13 to April 24, can earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex

While the personal SPG Amex/Marriott Bonvoy Amex will soon be closed to new applicants, the SPG Business Amex will remain open even after it's rebranded as the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex. The new card design will be available in March. There are a few changes in store as well:

  • A second free night award — Starting March 28, in addition to the free night award (for hotels that cost up to 35,000 points per night) that card holders get each year after their account anniversary, there will be a second free night award available to card holders who spend $60,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.
  • Annual fee increasing to $125 — The annual fee will increase to $125 from $95 starting on March 28 (See Rates & Fees). But if you apply for the card before the 28th, you'll get the fee waived for the first year and then retain $95 for the second year. You finally shift to $125 starting in your third card member year if you get the card before March 28. So if you're interested in acquiring this card, you'll want to do so before then.
  • 100k welcome bonus — Those who sign up between Feb. 13 to April 24 can earn 100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

Chase Bonvoy Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Of the two issuers, Chase will be the only one to offer an entry-level personal Marriott credit card to new applicants past beyond February. The existing Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card will be rebranded the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card on Feb 13.

It will largely remain the same as now, aside from new branding and card art, but it will be available with a limited-time 100,000-point welcome bonus (up from the current 75,000-point offer) to new card holders who spend $5,000 in the first three months starting on Feb. 28.

Marriott Premier Plus Business Card Closing to New Applicants

While Chase will keep the non-premium consumer Marriott card, Amex gets the non-premium business option. The Marriott Premier Plus Business Card will no longer be open to new applicants after Feb. 12, though existing card holders and those who apply in time will continue to enjoy all its benefits and pay the same $99 annual fee as they do today. The sign-up bonus will remain 75,000 points (after you spend $3,000 in the first three months) until it shutters to new applications for good in February.

The card will also add the opportunity to earn a second annual award night (at a hotel that costs up to 35,000 points) after you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. Card holders already get a free award night at properties that cost up to 35,000 points each year after their card member anniversary. This mirrors Amex's approach with its Marriott Bonvoy Business card, which will offer this same new benefit.

Small Updates to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card has been closed to new applicants since last July, and no, it's not coming back. However, it's receiving a small branding update: It will now be called the Ritz-Carlton Card. More importantly, it's also adding the $100 luxury credit that will be available on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex.

What Does This All Mean?

The Marriott-SPG merger has been complicated in many ways, and combining separate brands, each with their own loyal following and card products, is never an easy task. While not everyone is in love with the new Bonvoy name, having just one name across all credit cards associated with the program is likely a plus in the long run. What's not as clear of a plus are fewer card options (and bonuses) for consumers.

Given their long history, it's not surprising that both Amex and Chase are maintaining relationships with the combined Marriott program (as American Airlines has post-US Airways merger with Citi and Barclays). However, it is still a pretty a unique situation in the loyalty landscape.

Both Amex and Chase had to give a little, take a little with this arrangement. Amex is losing its mid-tier personal card for new applicants and Chase losing its small business card. After the dust settles, beginning Feb. 13, Amex will offer only offer the luxury personal card (Marriott Bonvuy Brilliant) and small business card (Marriott Bonvoy Business) to new applicants.

Chase will only offer the $95 personal card (Bonvoy Boundless) and then a new consumer no annual fee option coming this summer.

When plotting out your application strategy in light of these big announcements, you may want to take a close look the terms and conditions for each card as having one Marriott or SPG (soon to be Bonvoy) card now or in the past can mean you aren't eligible for another completely separate product under the Marriott Bonvoy umbrella.

If your head is spinning with all the dates we just threw at you, here's a quick rundown:

  • Feb. 12: Last day to sign up for the SPG Amex and the Marriott Premier Plus Business Card
  • Feb. 13: Marriott Bonvoy branding officially live; 100,000-point offers available on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex and Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex
  • Feb. 28: 100,000-point offer available on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase
  • March 28: $100 luxury credit available on Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, free night after $60k in spend available on the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex, Bonvoy Business Amex annual fee increasing to $125
  • April 24: 100,000-point offers end on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex and Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex

 Bottom Line

Signing up for the $95 Bonvoy Amex before it stops accepting applications forever on Feb. 12 could be the right move if you don't want to commit to the $450 of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. But keep in mind the latter card will be offering an elevated welcome bonus of 100,000 points, and if you can utilize its annual $300 Marriott statement credit (even valid on room rates), it can be a great pick. We'll be following up with additional coverage on choosing the best card for you in the coming days, so stay tuned.

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For rates and fees of the SPG Amex Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the SPG Amex Business Card, please click here.